Identity is the Key Enabler for Building Trust in the New Workplace

Over the past year, the global shift to remote work has changed the way we live and completely transformed the way organisations view productivity and collaboration.

Where work was once defined almost exclusively within the physical realm of the office, business leaders must now navigate the tech challenges of hybrid, remote, and dynamic workplaces. The top priority among those challenges is security and the ability to establish both digital trust and productivity outside the network perimeter. 

Following our inaugural report titled ‘The New Workplace: Re-imagining Work After 2020’, we’ve conducted new research to gain a deep understanding about how the workplace has changed over the past twelve months. This covers the shift from traditional nine to five office-based roles to remote, the growing prevalence of distributed working, and how working dynamics will continue to evolve post-pandemic.

In the ‘New Workplace Report’ study, which was independently commissioned, we looked at the attitudes of over 10,000 office workers across eight European countries.

The prevailing insight garnered from the study was the demand for flexibility from employers. The sheer variety of opinions voiced, how they differed across countries, and how they were influenced by individuals’ personal circumstances enforced the notion that there can no longer be a one-size-fits-all workplace model.

Business leaders are faced with a unique balancing act of creating digital experiences that enable agility, productivity and satisfaction without compromising security. But how do they tread that fine line and what role does identity have to play in helping them succeed?

The future of work must be dynamic

Our study revealed that, in some European countries, over 82 percent of respondents want flexibility when it comes to where they work.

This shows just how far expectations have evolved since our previous report. For instance, our 2020 survey found 33 percent of workers from France and the Netherlands wanted to return to the office full-time. This year these numbers have dropped to 21 percent and 18 percent respectively.

But what does flexibility look like? Preferences regarding days spent in the office against days working from home vary across regions and age groups. This would suggest an appetite for the ‘new workplace’ to be built around accommodating individual preference.

Organisations must enable workers to make their own choices regarding how and where they can be most productive.

This may be a daunting concept at first for employers, as they are still figuring out both the technical and cultural challenges of providing remote working, office working or a mixture of both.  However, if organisations want to attract and retain talent in the post-pandemic world then they need to provide a secure and seamless experience that accommodates a dynamic model.

This is only possible through using identity as the central control point for managing access to enterprise resources.

Breaking working norms to boost collaboration 

Our research also indicated a demand for further flexibility, specifically regarding where and when employees work and collaborate.

The ability to work from anywhere was clearly appealing to the 16-34 age group , with 42 percent indicating that they would like the freedom to move and embrace a ‘work wherever world for you’ model. However, the appetite for this level of flexibility was less apparent in other demographics with 78 percent of those aged 45-54 and 85 percent of over 55s happy with where they are. 

Young workers also expressed a desire to  break from traditional working hours. 66 percent said they’d choose an asynchronous working environment, which enables individuals to determine their preferred schedule, workplace, and tools. 

Once again, this poses some questions for organisations wondering how they can recruit and support employees going forward.

The potential increase in workers accessing the network from different geographies or over asynchronous working hours represents yet another IT security challenge. However, through effective identity and access management, organisations can enable agility and flexible collaboration, whilst building a strong cyber posture built around zero trust.

Feeling safe at work

The rise and popularity of flexible, remote workplaces doesn’t mark the end of the office. Physical workplaces are still essential for collaboration and company culture. Helping employees feel safe to return to the office is therefore paramount for those who value such face-to-face interaction. 

Vaccine passports offer a route to normality and 17 percent of respondents felt compulsory vaccine passports would aid a safe return to the office, whereas 13 percent would prefer a voluntary passport approach be used. 

Should vaccine passports become a significant factor in the new workplace, it is vital that any sensitive personal data, such as health status, is securely protected.

This is yet another challenge that significant identity and access management can support, enabling organisations to identify thousands of employees entering the corporate network, assuring workers that physical workplaces are safe.

Enabling secure working experiences

If businesses  are serious about offering dynamic working environments then they need to rethink their IT security processes and adopt a zero trust model. 

Over one third of organisations (34 percent) still depend on passwords as their one and only security measure. Just one quarter are supported by more robust security solutions including multi-factor authentication, which reduces the risk of a security breach by 75 percent, and only 12 percent use biometrics. 

It's clear that a ‘one size fits all’, perimeter-centric approach to IT security is no longer suitable. 

Instead, organisations must consider a more proactive stance that incorporates capabilities like passwordless authentication and adaptive multi-factor authentication, which both reduces the threat of password-based attacks and improves operational efficiency.

By establishing a single identity architecture in a zero trust, cloud-based environment, organisations can securely connect the right people to the right technologies at the right time, enabling them to be their best, productive selves, regardless of whether they are working remotely or in the office.  

A business balancing act

In this post we have explored just a few of the valuable insights from ‘The New Workplace: A Business Balancing Act’, all of which highlight the need for organisations to embrace and enable flexibility. 

If leaders want to build trust and prepare their businesses for the ‘new workplace’ then they need to both protect and empower their workforce. Identity is the enabler that allows them to tread that balance and is central to establishing trust. Using identity as the central control point for delivering access to enterprise resources, organisations can:

  • Seamlessly allow their people to work dynamically
  • Accommodate asynchronous, distributed teams
  • Ensure safety in physical workplaces
  • Adopt zero trust security

To learn more about the new workplace and how changing worker expectations could impact your organisation read the full report in English here.